(4 / 5)
This week at Chapter Arts Centre, the final stop of their 4 week tour of Moira Buffini’s 90s play, emerging Welsh Theatre Company 3 Crate Productions treat audiences to a unique insight into the lives of the Blavatsky’s. Choosing never to leave their top floor apartment in order to avoid ‘the crushed’, when Dr Tim Dunn enters their lives (bringing with him our socially constructed perception of normality) the company’s exploration of the family’s unusual relationships leads us to question the very notion of what it means to be ‘normal’.
The back story to the tale had distinctive parallels with Ballard’s 1975 High Rise through Hector Blavatsky’s visionary plans for his architectural masterpiece and how the result failed to realise the utopia of his vision. In Hector’s case this results in the descent of a veil of disillusionment and subsequent abstraction from the outside world, turning his back on the society that rejected his vision and barricading himself and his three children (emotionally rather than physically) within the four walls of their apartment in search of a higher meaning. Even as we see him on his death bed, Tony Leader’s portrayal of Hector Blavatsky makes it clear to the audience that despite his frailty his tyranny has undoubtedly defined the lives of his family, evidenced in the mixture of the love and slight resentment they have for him.
Audrey, the only Blavatsky to leave the house on account of being the breadwinner for the family, has a distinctive hold over her siblings and the power play enacted between the characters is extremely well executed. Hannah Lloyd’s portrayal of younger sister Ingrid perfectly captures the vulnerability of a character who is simultaneously curious of the tantalising outside world and altogether fearful of leaving the apartment, particularly heightened by Audrey’s antagonising. Through the sister’s interactions we experience first-hand the heightened tensions that social isolation can bring to relationships and the need that Audrey seems to feel to be in control of at least one aspect of your life, in this case through her power over her siblings.
Yet as we watch the squabbly interactions between the siblings we could equally be looking into the living room (although significantly less furnished) of any contemporary family and despite their idiosyncrasies we don’t doubt the close bond between the Blavatsky’s in spite of how this has been defined by their experience at the top of the tower.
3 Crate Productions make us laugh with the eccentricities of characters who have interacted only with each other but also challenge us to question our own preconceptions of what it means to be normal.